Kidney transplants save lives. For patients with end stage kidney disease, a transplant provides the chance to regain many aspects of a normal life. In the months following the transplant, recipients can experience dramatic improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life.
“I’ve been able to do so much with my life that I couldn’t do without my transplant. I was so fortunate that my sister was able to give me a kidney. It’s made such a difference in my life. It’s totally worth it.”
Kidney transplants come with long-term complications
However, standard kidney transplants require a lifelong, daily regimen of immunosuppressive drugs, and some significant lifestyle modifications, which introduce a new set of risks and challenges.
Risks of Long-Term Immunosuppression After a Kidney Transplant
Kidney transplant recipients require lifelong immunosuppression to prevent rejection of the donated organ. For many patients, this means taking more than 20 pills per day in order to maintain the new kidney. Because this medication suppresses the entire immune system, transplant recipients must be very careful to avoid potential infections for as long as they are taking immunosuppressive therapy. Patients must give up certain types of food entirely. Over time, the toxicity of these drugs causes a decline in kidney function, as well as damage to other organs. As kidney function declines, patients will feel less well. The average life of a transplanted kidney is between 12 and 20 years. Roughly 1/3 of living donor kidney transplants and roughly half of deceased donor kidney transplants fail within 10 years. The leading cause of transplant failure is chronic rejection of the kidney (despite immunosuppression).
Moreover, within ten years after transplant, many patients on immunosuppression have significantly higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and weight gain, resulting in a higher risk of cardiovascular events. Within 15 years, kidney failure and the need for dialysis or another transplant are common. Chronic immunosuppression has also been linked to a significantly higher risk of certain types of cancer than for the general population. The ongoing cost and decreased quality of life associated with chronic immunosuppression also leads some patients to stop taking their daily immunosuppression regimen, thus increasing their risk of kidney rejection.
Here are some first-hand accounts from kidney transplant recipients:
“A main and obvious disadvantage is the medication. You’re going to be on a ton of immune suppression medications for the lifetime of your kidney. That’s just something you’re going to sacrifice for this kidney.”
“When taking [tacrolimus], be expecting hand tremors, headaches, and possibly slight diarrhea. Oh, another side effect you may have, is a burning sensation in your hands and feet.”
“[Tacrolimus] causes tremors, high creatinine, high blood sugar, and nausea”
“Be aware this stuff [MMF] seems to rip up my stomach compared to my old meds. I’m supposed to take on an empty stomach, but I have to eat a little something first or I’ll lose it.”
“Ideally you want to avoid getting sick or being around sick people because your immune system is suppressed. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, you’re going to get sick. The first couple of times I got sick, I was terrified.”
— Male live donor kidney recipient in 40’s
Talaris seeks to address these challenges and risks by eliminating the need for chronic immunosuppression. In a long-term Phase 2 clinical study, our investigational, single-dose cell therapy, FCR001, has shown the potential to allow many transplant recipients to live their lives without chronic immunosuppression. For more information on the Talaris platform, click here. For information on our Phase 2 data, click here.